The deliberative democrat’s Idea of Justice

European Journal of Political Theory 12 (4):329-346 (2013)
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In Amartya Sen’s The Idea of Justice, democracy is necessary for the reconciliation of plural justice claims. Sen’s treatment of democracy is however incomplete and inadequate: democracy is under-specified, there are unrecognized difficulties in any context featuring deep moral disagreement or deep division and a conceptualization of public reason in the singular erodes his pluralism. These faults undermine Sen’s account of justice. Developments in the theory of deliberative democracy can be deployed to remedy these deficiencies. This deployment points to a deliberative system encompassing those affected by collective decisions, with places for non-partisan forums and discursive representatives, conditionally open to multiple forms of communication, and geared to the production of workable agreements under normative and discursive meta-consensus. Democracy does not guarantee justice, but in a plural world it is essential to the pursuit of justice.



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